Writing is easily one of the most therapeutic and cathartic pastimes a person could ever hope to engage in. Besides simply being a means for unlocking a person’s thoughts, fears, joys, and sorrows, writing can help us discover new worlds and new characters with varying degrees of troubles of their own.
But the rewards only come if you actually sit down and start writing.
Like most creative efforts, writing doesn’t come easily—even the most prolific writers have had dry spells occasionally. But without actually putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you’ll never get the tremendous sense of accomplishment that far outweighs the frustrations. It’s funny—if everyone who said they want to write a book or get into magazine article writing actually sat down and started on these types of projects, the shelves of our nearest bookstore couldn’t hold all of the items we’d have published.
But it’s easier to just put it off. Below are the top 5 things folks who want to write (but don’t) tell themselves, finally self-sabotaging their efforts before they even get started:
“I don’t have time.” You have just as much time in the day as any other prolific author working today—the trick is what you do with that time. You have to commit to writing just as you commit to anything else—a workout routine, volunteering in the community, etc. Get up an hour earlier, stay up an hour later, or squeeze in a few minutes on your lunch break—you’d be surprised at how much you can get accomplished in a measly 60 minutes!
“I don’t know what to write about.” So write about how difficult it is to keep writing when you think you don’t have any ideas. A key skill for any writer is to recognize the story potential in anything, anywhere, at any time. For magazine article writers, you might get an idea for a piece from your neighbor who builds miniature doll furniture and pitch it to a crafting magazine, or a market focused on those who like collectibles. Or dolls. Your disastrous family vacation might spark an idea for an essay. Or your lovably nutty, Auntie Mame-like grandmother could be the inspiration for the daft great-aunt character in the novel you’ve been working on. It does take some practice to find the story potential in the everyday, but once you get your mind to start thinking that way, you won’t be able to keep up with all of your ideas!
“No one will read this.” How do you know unless you start sending it out? Also, remember that not all writers are looking to get published. Take JD Salinger, for example. After the initial success of The Catcher in the Rye, Franny and Zooey, and Nine Stories, he basically disappeared from the limelight, but his family and close friends say that he never stopped writing. The only difference is that he started writing for himself, not a mass audience. What’s more important to you—having your work published and immortalized forever, or simply sitting down and writing for the sheer joy of it? Either one is fine, but your answer will depend on how hard you work at finding an agent, publisher, and getting your work sold.
“Nothing I write is any good.” Here’s a big secret—no writer truly likes their work, so if it makes you feel any better, picture some of the biggest names in literature silently (or not so silently) cursing every page and filling their wastebaskets with one false start after another. One nice thing about computers and their ability to delete is that it’s helped many writers save quite a bit of money on paper. No first draft is ever a masterpiece—that’s why it’s called a draft, and that’s why we have editing tools—spell check, proofreaders, and editors, to name a few.
“I don’t know where to start.” Even if your first few paragraphs (or pages!) are a little rough and not exactly how you want them to sound, you can always go back and make changes. Getting started is the hardest part of writing, whether it’s an article, short story, or novel, but once you start working on it and getting into the “flow” of the piece, you’ll find that the words will come easier. The important thing here is not where you start, but that you start.